Postponement of planning commission agenda item causes frustration


The Encinitas Planning Commission on Nov. 19 was slated to give the thumbs up or down on a plan to overhaul the Leucadia Shell Gas Station. But with the meeting stretching six hours, the agenda item was continued to Dec. 17.

After waiting more than five hours, Ravi Gupta presented a proposal to demolish the gas station building and replace it with a new marketplace and car wash, as well as add a gas pump. However, the commission had to abruptly end the hearing, since rules state commission meetings start at 6 p.m. and can’t go past midnight.

Gupta made his frustration known.

“I absolutely believe from a business point of view to push this project back a month is absolutely unfair,” said Gupta, whose family owns and operates the gas station. He added that city input has already resulted in multiple revisions to the project.

When reached over the phone after the meeting, Gupta said the delay could push construction back to the summer, the busiest time of the year. He added that the meeting wasted time — and money, since a traffic expert and engineer accompanied him to help present plans.

Planning Commission Chair Glenn O’Grady during the meeting apologized for having to continue the hearing, but said there wasn’t enough remaining time to hear public speakers or for commission deliberation.

“The best I can do is continue it,” O’Grady said. “I apologize. That’s what I’m stuck with.”

The gas station plan was second to last on a packed agenda. A hearing on Encinitas’ urban agriculture rules was also postponed.

In an email after the meeting, O’Grady said the lengthy agenda was due to fewer Planning Commission meetings in recent months. City staff has been focused on updating the housing element, reducing their availability for meetings.

Also, O’Grady added on to the agenda by moving a few alcohol-related agenda items from the consent calendar — reserved for routine items of business — to the regular agenda for individual consideration. O’Grady said he did this because of “heightened concern over alcohol permit impacts downtown and citywide.”

And he said that commissioner deliberation on prior agenda items took longer than anticipated.

“We are five independent commissioners from various backgrounds who bring our unique perspectives,” O’Grady wrote. “The more thoroughly a project gets vetted the better.”

The city is required to notify residents of Planning Commission projects by advertising them ahead of time in local newspapers — at a cost. Because the hearing on the gas station will be continued, it doesn’t have to be re-advertised, according to Manjeet Ranu, acting director of the Planning Department.

O’Grady said prior to Nov. 19, a commission meeting had never gone until midnight, at least during his time on the commission. He noted that city staff puts together the agenda, and as the chair, he’s responsible for reviewing it.

“Since it is the chair who is ultimately responsible for the agenda, I take full responsibility and will not allow that full of an agenda in the future,” O’Grady wrote. “We were hopeful of getting through it in one evening but we were wrong.”